Revista Americana de Medicina Respiratoria - Volumen 15, Número 2 - Junio 2015

Cómo Escribir un Artículo Científico

Let’s Discuss Duplicate Publication

Autor : Takako Kojima1, J. Patrick Barron2

1Assistant Professor, Department of International Medical Communications, Tokyo Medical University 2Professor Emeritus, Tokyo Medical University

Correspondencia : Takako Kojima E-mail:

Series Item 3
Why is duplicate publication an act of misconduct? What exactly is duplicate publication and how can I protect myself and my career?

What is duplicate publication?
When talking about duplicate publication, you may have also come across various different terms such as prior, repetitive, overlapping, related, redundant, multiple, and dual, which refer to the same issue of duplicate publication. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) uses the heading “Overlapping Publications” in this particular section of its Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals (known as the ICMJE Recommendations) on duplicate submission, duplicate publication, and acceptable secondary publication. The ICMJE defines duplicate publication as “the publication of a paper that overlaps substantially with one already published, without clear, visible reference to the previous publication”1.
One problem that authors may face when trying to understand and interpret this definition, is that the degree of overlap that constitutes ‘substantial’ is vague and left undefined2. How much do you think ‘substantial’ means? Fifty percent? Ninety percent? We cannot be sure as this has not been defined. Journals also have different perspectives on how much overlap actually constitutes duplicate publication. For example, the British Medical Journal requires that authors send copies of previous publications that overlap by more than 10% with the submitted article, as they ‘want to make up their own minds on the degree of overlap’ to decide whether it is a redundant publication or not3. However, even though this issue is handled differently among journals, what we do know is that publication ethics must be taken very seriously, and duplicate publication is a type of misconduct that must be avoided and that could damage your reputation and career as a researcher/clinician.

Why is duplicate publication not allowed?
There are many reasons why duplicate publication is not allowed. One main reason is that duplicate publication lowers the quality of science and the journals that publish it. The ICMJE states that the problem of duplicate publication affects original research in particular, because it can result in inadvertent double-counting of the researcher’s output data or inappropriate overestimation of the significance of the results of a single study, which can misrepresent the actual evidence available for either the researcher, the study, or both1. Another significant reason is to protect the rights of the readers of the journal. Readers should be able to read an original research paper and trust that it is truly original, not a duplicated report of a previously conducted study, unless there is a clear statement that it has been intentionally republished1. So, again, the ethical responsibility of the author is emphasized.

Is duplicate submission okay if the secondary article has not been published yet?
First of all, duplicate submission occurs when a manuscript is submitted to different journals simultaneously or almost simultaneously. The answer to this question in the subheading is no, authors should not submit the same article to different journals at approximately the same time. The ICMJE states that duplicate submission should not take place because of the above reasons or because of the potential disagreement which could occur when 2 or more journals claim the right to publish it. In addition, as most journals conduct peer review, this would mean that the same manuscript would undergo review by different reviewers for each journal it was submitted to, resulting in much unnecessary voluntary work1.

Is it possible to publish the same article in another language?
The answer is yes. You can find the 6 criteria for ‘Acceptable Secondary Publication’ under the section on Overlapping Publications in the ICMJE Recommendations ( Basically, the ICMJE believes that duplicate publication is acceptable in specific circumstances, for example, if there is a need to reach the widest possible audience or if the manuscript is aimed at different audiences (different languages)2. So, if you wish to publish a secondary publication in another language, it is very important to first study the 6 criteria listed in the ICMJE Recommendations, make sure that all criteria are met, and obtain written approval from both journals.

So, what happens if duplicate publication is suspected?
A number of things could happen. Many journals have high-quality software, such as CrossCheck, or iThenticate, to detect duplicate publication and plagiarism. Therefore if duplicate publication is suspected, and you have not mentioned the possibility of this in the cover letter, it is highly likely that the manuscript will be rejected. Furthermore, an investigation may well be conducted by the editor-in-chief, based on the guidelines found in the COPE flowcharts produced by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) on handling duplicate publication4. COPE was established in 1997 in London to advance ethical standards of academic journals. COPE produced its flowcharts in 2006, providing step-by-step suggestions for editors and publishers regarding different issues in publication ethics. These include suspected publication misconduct such as duplicate publication, authorship, and undisclosed conflict of interest. Over 9000 editorial members and journals have become signatories to COPE concerning ethical issues in medical publishing5. If explanations given by the author seem unsatisfactory, the author’s institution and author’s superior may be questioned4 which could damage the reputation of the author and coauthors. In some cases, such as in the case of CHEST, the editor-in-chief may ban an author from publishing any manuscript in their journal for a specified time period, with a notice to the author’s institution6, and some may blacklist the coauthors and refuse to consider future submissions from them from an unspecified period of time7.

How can I avoid duplicate publication yet publish material already published in my own non-English language?
Follow the ICMJE Recommendations if you are ever in doubt that duplicate publication may be suspected. It is extremely important that the situation be fully explained in advance to the editor-in-chief, in a cover letter, at the time of submission. Once a manuscript is published and unexplained duplicate publication is suspected, this violation will increase problems such as retraction of the publication, or a published statement in the journal to its readers4.
Furthermore, a copy of the previous publication should be included so that the editor-in-chief can make a decision as to whether the new submission would be acceptable or considered duplicate publication. This can be done with online submission systems, as authors can upload such manuscripts as supplementary files.

Ending message
Authors need to understand that the quality of a research study and its publication is more important than the quantity. Although various issues in publication ethics have become recognized, even more and effort has been made to educate researchers on its significance, much of publication ethics relies on the honesty and integrity of the author.
It is important to be aware that your work represents not just yourself but also your institution. By publishing ethically, you are not only protecting the reputation and career for yourself but all those around you.

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